An Actor's Guide To Routine
Katie Redford's guide to creating and maintaining a routine in the unpredictable world of acting...
I don't know about you, but trying to sustain a routine can feel impossible at times. And yet, they’re so vital to have. Not only does a routine keep us motivated, but it also keeps us mentally and physically healthy too. They give us a sense of belonging and security, which are two things that our industry appears to lack. How are we meant to feel in control and on top of things when we can’t even hold down a hair appointment because of that last minute audition for Kellogg’s?
It says a lot about your lifestyle when the only consistent part of your weekly routine is Love Island. When your day to day is as unpredictable as the next Doctor Who, it’s difficult finding a routine that not only works but sticks.
Me, Sunday evening: This week’s going to be different. I’m going to be on top of everything.
*Books acting class. Books gym class. Vows to batch cook and prep meals for the week *(Cheers Deliciously Ella).
Me, Monday morning: Queen of the routine, I hear you say? Well, I don’t wanna brag but…What’s that? An audition? A last minute nannying shift? A free writing workshop? A self tape?
*Cancels classes, eats M&S sandwiches on the go all week (Soz Deliciously Ella) and all sense of routine goes out the window.*
I don't know about you, but trying to sustain a routine can feel impossible at times. And yet, they’re so vital to have. Not only does a routine keep us motivated, but it also keeps us mentally and physically healthy too. They give us a sense of belonging and security, which are two things that our industry appears to lack. How are we meant to feel in control and on top of things when we can’t even hold down a hair appointment because of that last minute audition for Kellogg’s? The mind boggles. Here are a few suggestions that may help to not only having a routine, but help with sticking to one, too.
Join something fun that requires your attendance
I just joined Street Dance. Not sure why. Well, I am sure why - I watched a video on YouTube of a dance-off, and got a bit swept up in the moment. Next thing, I’m at a class in London Bridge, body popping to Drake. Well, trying to. The point is, I now know that on Monday and Wednesday evenings, I’m unavailable. Obviously if something comes up, which it always will, then I don’t go. But that doesn’t detract from joining. Try anything! And don’t make excuses about money; we’re never gonna have enough. Take a look round: there are cheap deals to be found. And when you find something, turn up every week if you can and forget about everything else. Just throw yourself into whatever it is you’ve been brave enough to join. My friend’s just started rock climbing and my mum’s joined a Chinese art class. Do something to create routine outside of your ‘normal’ routine. You’ll surprise yourself with how much more on track you’ll feel.
Plan when you can
I’m a bit much when it comes to planning (I make lists of lists. Yep, I’m one of them). So you can imagine my horror when it all has to go out the window due to a last minute occurrence. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan when you can. Be ahead of the game and plan your week. I know it’s daunting, being unsure of where to begin when you’re juggling loads of different things. Not only are you trying to keep on top of paying the bills by picking up last minute random shifts, but you also need to do that prep for that self tape, then you need to make sure you go to those birthday drinks, and your mate’s got a comp for his new show at The Globe, and then you should probably book an acting class to make sure you feel like you’re doing things - ARGHH. We are trying to keep as many plates spinning at once as we can, which is difficult, but you’ll be amazed at what planning ahead can do to your routine. So, every week, try roughly scheduling your week. To make sure you’re getting yourself a healthy balance, mentally and physically, set aside time in your weekly routine for the following:
- Doing something that will make you feel like an actor - always have a play on the go, do some vocal exercises, watch a show - anything that makes you feel like you’re contributing to your craft. It sounds silly but when it’s quiet, it’s easy to let these things slide.
- Doing something that will move you forward. That two hander you’ve thought about taking to Edinburgh: write a page, a paragraph - anything! It doesn’t matter how little you do at a time, just be consistent with it on a weekly basis.
- Seeing friends/family
- Street Dance (subject to opinion)
Take time out
Taking time out is something I think self-employed people never really feel they can truly commit to. Well, you should. And you must. It’s just as important as working. However you relax to recharge your batteries, commit to it 100%. Whether it’s an hour or so every day or a one full day a week, take the time to do absolutely nothing to do with what you’re working towards. It will re-direct your focus and refresh your enthusiasm. I have a friend who’s a writer. They work from home/coffee shops and find they work best creatively first thing in the morning. So, every day at 5pm, they force themselves to leave wherever they are and simply walk for an hour. Having time out not only gives you some time to yourself but also allows you to reflect on what you’ve done throughout the day that’s worked and what hasn't worked. In a world full of social media, as soon as we get a quiet minute, the majority of us reach for our phones to check what everyone else is up to. Try not to. Try just taking an hour out of the day, purely for you. Just notice how much easier your routine feels with a nice big break slotted in there.
Get up early
Staying in bed on a regular basis can increase anxiety and fatigue, according to, well, everyone I know. It seems so right at the time, just hitting that snooze button. But get up. Even if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing that day (which won’t happen because you’ll have planned a basic routine…right?).
There’s a fascinating book called The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins where she applies this rule to everything she does. Simply counting down from 5 to 1 helps her achieve the simplest things in every day life, including getting up in the morning. Her argument is that we listen to how we feel way more than we should. If we based doing things on how we felt, we’d never move forward. No-one ever feels like doing a mammoth mail-out to directors. No one ever feels like that 6am HIIT session. You just do it and by counting down from 5, you force your brain to begin a new thought pattern. Begin the day with something that gets your heart racing - a morning run, some form of cardio, even a cold shower. You’ll start as you mean to go on and be fired up for the rest of the day. Go on - 5,4,3,2,1…
I started training with a Personal Trainer earlier this year. He was huge and scary and pointed in my face every time he spoke.
Scary PT: I need 100% from you. You hear me? 100% (pointing in my face)
Me: Absolutely. 100% (points back)
Scary PT: What do you wanna be?
Scary PT: When do you want it?
Yeah, that’s all very well. But cue a week in and I’m on a train for a last minute audition with my cold turkey mince meat and asparagus in a sweaty Tupperware box and funnily enough, I’m not so pumped anymore. I also didn’t make my morning HIIT session that Wednesday morning due to a self tape, and also had to abandon the Street Dance class because I was skint, and a shift popped up. And I was annoyed at myself! Even though it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Try telling Scary PT that.
Scary PT: Lisa doesn’t do this. Lisa turns up and eats her mince meat and asparagus! (points in my face)
Me: Yeah, well, Lisa didn’t have a last minute audition for Holby, did she? (points back)
That bit of the conversation didn’t actually happen, but I know what Scary PT was thinking. We can only stretch ourselves so much and sometimes, we just need to accept we can’t do everything we intended to. Don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t let anyone else make you feel bad for having to change your plans at the last minute. I get it, we can be unreliable but excuse us for following our dreams (Probably don’t say that bit during a confrontation. It sounds rather self indulgent). Just do the best you can and if it doesn’t go to plan, you can always try again the next day.
So kids, do fun, random things, get up earlier, accept change, plan ahead, and please for the love of god, do not eat cold turkey mince from a sweaty Tupperware box on the way to an audition. It may be good for the waistline but it is not good for the soul, and that my friends, is far more important (points at you in true Scary PT style).
Katie Redford is an actress & writer originally from Nottingham, and part of the BBC New Talent Hotlist 2017. Katie won the BBC Norman Beaton Fellowship in 2015 via Birmingham Rep. She was part of the BBC Radio Drama Company and is now currently playing Lily Pargetter in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers and Ruby Tuliver in BBC Radio 4’s Home Front. She can also be heard as Layla in BBC Radio Comedy’s All Those Women.